Nationals set Opening Day roster

April 7th, 2022

The Nationals’ 2022 Opening Day roster was announced by president of baseball operations Mike Rizzo on Thursday.

The Nats are deep with returning young talents like Juan Soto, Josiah Gray and Keibert Ruiz, and they added a group of experienced veterans this offseason -- Nelson Cruz, Sean Doolittle and Aníbal Sánchez -- to bridge that gap amid injuries to some key players.

Because Spring Training was condensed following the lockout, teams can carry 28 players (29 for doubleheaders) -- including unlimited pitchers -- on an expanded roster through May 1. Rosters will go back to 26 players (maximum of 13 pitchers) on May 2.

Take a look at the 28-man roster for Opening Day, when the Nats host the Mets at 7:05 p.m. ET on Thursday at Nationals Park.

Catcher (2): , Riley Adams
The two young catchers acquired at last year’s Trade Deadline return for their first full season with the Nationals. Ruiz, 23, will be tabbed as the everyday starter with Adams, 25, as backup. Look for Ruiz to add pop to the lineup batting behind Soto, Cruz and Josh Bell.

First base (1): Josh Bell
Bell returns as the starting first baseman in his second season in Washington. He had a bounceback 2021 season, in which he hit .277 with 15 homers after the All-Star break. Bell, 29, is expected to bat fourth behind Nelson Cruz in the order.

Second base (1): César Hernández
The Nationals brought in the free-agent Hernández this offseason to play key roles in the infield and the batting order. Manager Dave Martinez lauded Hernández, 31, in the leadoff spot, where he has a .349 career on-base percentage.

Shortstop (1): 
After being out of the Major Leagues since 2018, Escobar started 58 games at shortstop last season after being acquired by the Nationals in July. The 35-year-old has been revered for his veteran presence at the position.

Third base (1): 
Franco and were set to compete for the starting third base role in Spring Training, until Kieboom was placed on the 60-day injured list (right forearm flexor mass and ulnar collateral ligament strain) during camp. Franco, 29, is looking forward to a fresh opportunity after hitting .210 with the Orioles last season.

Utility (2): , 
The Nationals had to make a late-camp adjustment when utility infielder Ehire Adrianza suffered a left quad strain last week and will begin the season on the 10-day injured list. Fox, ranked as Washington’s No. 23 prospect by MLB Pipeline, rejoined the Nats in Florida from Triple-A Rochester on Monday. He has experience in the middle infield, and he has been working at third base during Spring Training while pursuing his Major League debut.

Competing for a roster spot on a Minor League deal, 10-year veteran Strange-Gordon turned heads during camp at the plate, on the basepaths and in the field -- both infield and outfield. Martinez noted that “he does everything well,” and he considers him a “super-U guy.”

Outfielders (4): Juan Soto, Victor Robles, Lane Thomas, 
Soto, 23, was the only positional lock in the outfield as he returns to right for the second consecutive season. His change could come in the batting order with Martinez in favor of the 2021 NL MVP runner-up hitting second.

After Robles finished last season in Triple-A, Martinez said last week, “I want Victor to be our center fielder.” Robles, 24, revamped his swing with improved hand placement, and Martinez hopes an increase in offensive production will correlate to a boost in the defensive talents that made him a Gold Glove Award finalist in 2019.

With Robles reclaiming his role, the 26-year-old Thomas -- who finished last season starting in center -- shifts over in the outfield. Said Martinez, “I like Lane a lot. He did well for us last year. He’s going to get a chance to play left field.”

Martinez wanted a left-hander to fill the role of backup outfielder to the right-handed Robles and Thomas. With lefty Andrew Stevenson clearing outright waivers and accepting a Triple-A assignment and Gerardo Parra being reassigned to Minor League camp, look for Yadiel Hernandez in that spot. He also could see time backing up Soto in right. 

DH (1): Nelson Cruz
The Nats inked Cruz, a heavy-hitting veteran leader, this month to bolster their lineup and add protection behind Soto. Cruz, 41, batted .265 with 32 home runs last season and ended Spring Training with a grand slam.

Starting pitchers (5): , , , Aníbal Sánchez,
Washington approaches the regular season shorthanded, without starters Stephen Strasburg and Joe Ross, who will remain in Florida to continue their rehab. Corbin got the nod for Opening Day as he targets a bounceback in 2022, and he will be followed by Gray, Fedde, Sánchez and Adon.

Adon, the Nationals’ No. 8 prospect, emerged late in camp for the starting rotation. After an impressive Major League debut against the playoff-bound Red Sox in last season’s finale, he stood out again in Spring Training with his strike throwing and in-game adjustments. Josh Rogers, who made six starts in 2021, also had been in contention for the fifth spot. He will begin the season in Triple-A, where the Nationals want him to continue getting reps in a starting role.

Bullpen (10): , Steve Cishek, Sean Doolittle, Paolo Espino, Kyle Finnegan, Andres Machado, Patrick Murphy, Tanner Rainey, Mason Thompson, Austin Voth
The Nationals opened the season with a righty-heavy bullpen. An expanded roster presents the opportunity for them to carry more relievers, an asset with a hampered starting rotation. Cishek, Espino, Machado and Voth are options to stretch multiple innings. A notable addition to the bullpen is Arano, a non-roster invitee with a strong Spring Training, who last pitched in the Majors in 2019 with the Phillies. In the back end, Rainey is the top candidate to close.